I always have a hard time writing about a trip soon after I return, and our April trip to Scotland is no exception. The Highlands were as staggeringly beautiful as I’d hoped, and we had the chance to see them in many weather moods – wreathed in mist, pelting rain, and even some sunny afternoons. It’s not a cliché to say that my photos don’t do them justice. They don’t do them justice. I’m saving the Highlands for their own post, so in the meantime, how about a cracking photo of the Scottish flag at Edinburgh Castle?
Jeff and I had been meaning to visit Scotland for years, but we never seemed to be able to make it happen until this past spring. And it was worth the wait. Wandering around Edinburgh was a treat – the architecture, the people, the shopping, the food (oh god the food!). The Royal Mile made me simultaneously crave cashmere, sterling silver, shortbread and whisky. We were lucky to arrive before tourist season really began, so while there were lots of people, the streets weren’t heaving and we only heard one solitary piper, rather than the cacophony we were dreading of competing pipers spaced 10-20 feet apart along the Mile.
Let’s talk about the food.
Mums Great Comfort Food kept popping up in Edinburgh breakfast recommendations and boy howdy were we glad we went. Our family doctor and arteries might think differently. We wanted a traditional Scottish breakfast and YES. Friendly service from the nicest woman we’ve ever met, who filled us with off-the-beaten-track suggestions for Edinburgh, along with the most awesome breakfast ever. We didn’t eat again until 8 pm. And their toilets have the Union Jack painted on them! I wanted to marry this place.
We had excellent dinners as well – one night at Wildest Drams. I mean – how often in North America does one get a warning on the menu that their wild shot game may contain fragments of shot, shrapnel or bone splinters? Sign me up! Two of our dining companions were thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to discover bits of shot in their hare. They beamed like new celebrities being asked for an autograph.
My birthday dinner was an incredible meal at The Bon Vivant on Thistle Street after seeing a piece on Scotland Now called The 15 ultimate food and drink experiences in Scotland. Well, they were right. Having a number of tapas-style options was perfect; as a table we really got to try many different things before settling down to our mains. From start to finish it was a sublime meal. Probably my most perfect birthday ever.
I couldn’t get away from Edinburgh without having what is touted as the best scone in the history of ever, so we went to Wellington Coffee on George Street in New Town – easy to miss as it’s below street level, for yes, the best scone I’ve ever tasted. I went back the next day to have another. And considered running there to get more before we picked up our car rental and I’m still a little mad at myself for not doing that.
Another Edinburgh highlight was something we thought was going to be cheesy, but was surprisingly wonderful – The Scotch Whisky Experience. I mean, the website copy includes the phrase “swirling, bubbling barrel ride”. But wow – it was very well done and informative. I had gone in apprehensive about all but the most accessible types of whisky, and after the whisky tasting came out a bit of a peat monster. Conquering my fear of peaty/smoky whisky on my birthday? Best gift to myself ever!
- Whisky and a fruit scone make a great snack – especially when consumed in the brisk air somewhere on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle
- Climbing both the Scott Monument and Calton Hill within an hour of a Scottish breakfast – inadvisable.
- Canada is not the only place in the world that gets damn cold. Brrrr!